BOSTON, February 26 – LeBron James had 36 points, nine assists and seven rebounds Thursday as Cleveland shrugged off an injury to Shaquille O'Neal to beat the Boston Celtics 108-88.
Mo Williams scored 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter for Cleveland, who lost veteran center O’Neal to a thumb injury in the first half.
Williams made four three-pointers as the Cavs outscored the Celtics 35-14 in the final period.
Cleveland improved to 20-10 on the road, tying Boston for the best in the NBA, and avenged a 95-89 home defeat on the opening night of the season.
Since then Cleveland have taken control in the Eastern Conference, opening a 5 1/2-game lead over Orlando with Boston 7 1/2 games adrift in a tie with Atlanta.
Boston dominated the first quarter, but Cleveland stepped up their defence in the second half.
Ray Allen scored 21 points, while Rajon Rondo had 19 points and 11 assists for the Celtics, who missed injured All-Star Paul Pierce (right thumb) in the second half – when Cleveland outscored Boston 60-32.
After trailing through most of the first three quarters, Cleveland surged in the fourth. A basket from Williams with nine minutes to play gave them a 79-78 lead that they never relinquished.
He drained back-to-back three-pointers to extend the margin with less than six minutes to play.
James scored the next four points to extend the lead to 14 points.
The Cavs superstar had more to do after O’Neal was hurt, apparently when Celtics forward Glen Davis whacked his hand while trying to block in the second quarter.
O’Neal left for good some 30 seconds later, and the team said he had a "significant" sprain of his right thumb.
Cleveland are without a backup center after trading Zydrunas Ilgauskas to Washington before the trade deadline.
However, the Wizards waived Ilgauskas on Thursday after reaching agreement on a buyout of his contract, so after the required 30-day waiting period he could rejoin his former team.